By Ana Maria Luca
Romania’s Social Democrat-led government survived a no-confidence motion on Wednesday – but faced more turbulence outside parliament, where thousands of anti-corruption protesters gathered to demand Prime Minister Viorica Dancila’s resignation.
Tensions rose also in the legislature over new security regulations that banned opposition MPs from inviting their supporters and advisors into the building – while journalists’ access was restricted for the first time since the 1989 revolution to a limited press area.
The motion submitted by the opposition Liberals, and backed by the Save Romania Union and the nationalist Popular Movement Party, came 67 votes short of the 233 votes needed to bring down the government.
“You’re mystifying reality,” Dancila told the debate. “To you, a rise in income is a populist measure… there are many lies in this motion,” she added.
Her speech was interrupted several times by opposition MPs who chanted “Resignation! Resignation!” and put up a banner reading, “We fight until the end for Romania.”
The Liberals failed to win the support of the main ethnic Hungarian party in parliament, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, which holds 21 seats.
It did win the support of MPs gathered around former Social Democrat leader Victor Ponta, who left the ruling party to form his own political faction, but their votes were not enough.
Social Democrat MPs did not vote, as the party wanted to avoid the risk of any of its MPs supporting the no-confidence motion.
Over 70 Social Democrat supporters were allowed into the balconies of the chamber, as the law allows citizens to observe debates.
Opposition MPs protesting during Prime Minister Viorica Dancila’s speech. Photo: Octav Ganea/Inquam Photos
But their presence angered opposition MPs, after the ruling coalition banned MPs from Save Romania Union – the third force in parliament – from bringing their own guests into the complex, including their advisors.
Among those who were denied access to the chamber was Save Romania Union’s communications advisor, Ioana Lupea.
Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea “is not allowing me to go inside the parliament. He gave the order that no USR guest can enter the building. The Social Democrats’ guests are allowed in, I just saw a group of women happily entering the building. So today I will work from the hallway. I have this before ’89 feeling. Really bad,” she wrote on Facebook.
The new regulations were adopted on Tuesday by the leadership of the two chambers, after Save Romania Union MPs allowed a group of anti-corruption protesters to enter parliament on June 20 and stage a sit-in against the ruling party’s plan to relax anti-graft legislation.
Journalists’ movement and access were also restricted to a press area, several reporters told BIRN. The move is unprecedented as journalists were formerly free to move around and interview MPs.
News website G4media.ro said a leading Social Democrat MP, Eugen Nicolicea, had told reporters that their access was restricted because their presence bothered the meetings.
“You have all the facilities you need on the ground floor. There is a press room, you have what you need there. But you’re sitting here, lying around like in a bus station,” he told the media.
Nicolicea also submitted a proposal on Wednesday to punish MPs who are deemed undisciplined with 20 to 30 day suspensions. The move was a response to the fact that Save Romania Union MPs have often staged protests during debates.
Meanwhile, about 5,000 protesters, many of them Save Romania Union supporters, rallied in Izvor Park, right next to parliament, to demand Dancila’s resignation.
Protesters organized on social media, and several companies announced they gave their employees the day off to join the protests.